Dying Computers, Chainsaw Editing, and Snail Races

As I’m going through my revision, I’m noticing that certain letters are missing. Not all the time, and not always the same letters, but… I’m writing in letters. After a few pages of this, I’m starting to think about new computers (or at lest, new keyboards.) My slightly neurotic alternate theory is that it’s me, somehow, just not hitting the keys as hard as I should be. I can’t decide whether that last one’s a sign that I’m cheap as hell and don’t want to spend money on a new computer, If I could just get degenerative muscular diseases instead, or if I’m paranoid that I’m getting something I’ve encountered in other people.

Note to self: It IS you, and in the future, don’t pop the keys off your keyboard to clean, you moron.

I’m editing with a chainsaw, today. Twenty one pages come in… and four come out. Four! And there’s nothing wrong with the extra 17 pages, really. Just chunks that are duplicated in other places, or that I don’t need anymore, because I’ve revised them out of my timeline.

On the bright side, think of all the word count that frees up.

I have front row seats for #pitmad this morning, which basically means 1.) I’m not working and 2.) I have all kinds of tabs open on my computer, watching various agents from by TBQ (to be queried) list punch in those likes. Likes on Twitter do not automatically refresh, or even notify you of their existence, so I’m wearing out the reload button. Exactly why am I doing this?

Well, maybe I’m bored, and maybe I’m diligent. It does give you an idea of their specific tastes, though.

The process reminds me of the snail-races we used to have back when I was a teacher’s aide. Place the agents inside a circle, and wait. So far, none of them have actually done anything, but the kids are entertained, and teacher gets a few spare minutes to catch her breath and organize the next lesson.

Snail A has liked two pitches. Snail B has poured himself a cup of coffee. Pretty sure Snail C is in one of Billy Ostermeyer’s pockets.

In most cases, the reward for getting #pitmad likes is… Well, you get to query in exactly the same way you would, if you’d just read the guidelines, but you get to add #pitmad to the subject line.

I can’t decide whether that’s worth the effort of the snail race, or not.

Looking to the Future, and Preparing to Duck

There’s a point in querying when you look at the agent’s guidelines, and you look at your manuscript, and you start doing math in your head. If literary agent is on a train leaving Boston at 3:17 and rejects three and a half manuscripts every ten minutes, in what city will she rip open a hernia laughing at your audacity? If literary assistant is from Nebraska, and you mention the Huskers three times in your query, will he read quickly enough to award perceived affinity points before he realizes you meant the Concrete Canoe team, and don’t know anything about football?

And–my personal favorite–if Guidelines request X number of pages, where exactly are you abandoning your characters?

So far as I can tell, there are three possible answers to this question.

Don’t worry.

You’ll loose plenty of sleep regardless.

1.) Holy shit, I thought this thing was finished. I am going back to revise.

2.) One good stopping point is too short. The next one is too long.

or…

3.) Gee, I wonder if there’s a specific protocol for sending humorous penis descriptions to a respected publishing professional.

Maybe that last one is just me.

It’s not an erotic scene by any stretch. My character arrives on scene naked and incredibly intoxicated.

And I love the scene. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

But those moral restraints society has worked so hard to imbue me with tend to suggest there might be some form of etiquette involved… Somewhere.

Here is the scene I couldn’t read out loud in the company break room.

And a quiche, because a non-sexy breakfast food is an excellent way to take the awkward out of… awkward!

Is quiche platonic enough? I mean… well, it doesn’t have any holes.

At any rate, the most popular numbers of pages to request seem to be 5 pages… 10 pages… and CUE THE NUDITY!!!

A (Very) Brief Biography

Somehow, the idea of writing an author bio is getting to me, right now.

Could be the fact that I’m a little up in the air on it myself. I mean… I’m not where I want to be with life, and I’m not really getting the short-story credits to stack up. And just thinking about it bores the shit out of me.

Karen lives in a completely forgettable place, works a meaningless job, and plays beautician to a depraved cat. She doesn’t have the faintest idea who she is, either.

**Ahem**

In addition to having a well-developed cover, including both a day job and house plants, Karen is an astronaut in the CIA’s ambitious program to place covert operatives on Jupiter.

Well, no. Actually, the CIA will not confirm that. But they probably won’t deny it, either. And that makes it true.

There’s the lifetime activity bio: Karen used to do interesting things, and has recently won her penguin march badge on fitbit.

And the immediate bio: Karen is making a turkey sandwich and trying not to drip mayo on this very important query letter.

I’m a little afraid I’ll have agents asking me to send the sandwich.

I’m not sharing my sandwich.

Okay. All things book-related. I could do that. Unfortunately, Karen was crushed to death in a tragic TBR collapse. Now, she haunts libraries, reading over peoples’ shoulders, and laying cold, icy fingers on the necks of studying freshmen.

Your New Terrifying Thought of the Day

I found a new and improved querying phobia, the other day, and since I can’t get the thought out of my mind, I figured the rest of you should suffer, too. Maybe I’m dense, but I hadn’t even thought of this one, before.

This one’s from Janet Reid’s blog–she’s a literary agent, and she blogs, and you should read her blog, even if you’re only slightly considering traditional publishing–and here’s the dark and terrifying quote:

“You should also remember that if I love your work, and sign you as a client, all my OTHER clients will be skulking around your blog to learn about you.”–Janet Reid.

Oh, good. That’s not terrifying at all, because I am perfectly normal. All my friends are perfectly normal. And we certainly did not throw a party for our imaginary friends a couple years back. Also… pay no attention to any posts about standing in the rain with a camera trying to photograph lightning; rampant insecurities; desired marriages based on “some men can cook”; vacuum cleaners or other electronics with names; or skulls or other human remains.

I don’t know how that got there.

So… there’s the idea. You know that writer? The one that made me query this person in the first place? The one where I explain the agent by saying ___________’s agent? (As in, They’ll probably laugh until they pass out, but they’re ________’s agent, so I at least want to try?) That client?

Yup.

That seems to say they’re inviting themselves over for dinner.

Don’t forget they’re vegetarian, and they have some food allergies. (I’ll send you a list.)

Not just my place. They’re going over to visit you, too.

I’ll be hiding as a puddle of melted Karen over in the corner. You get your own disguise.

 

Chihuly Sanctuary in Omaha

One of my all-time favorite artists is Dale Chihuly, who creates large-scale, blown-glass installations which are light, and colorful, and soaring, hopeful things. Even if you haven’t heard the name, I’m sure you’ve seen the work.

And last week, the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center opened in Omaha, bringing with it the Chihuly Sanctuary and the Chihuly Atrium. I’ve been waiting for this for a couple of years. I’ve been waiting for this since I first heard there was going to be a Chihuly installation, and since I first saw bulldozers leveling the ground for the building.

Because, of course, when you hear there’s going to be a new blown-glass installation, you have to go watch the bulldozers. It’s just one of those things. So, I did that.

I didn’t take any pictures of the bulldozers, but I did take pictures of the Chihuly art. Today, they let me inside the building.

Honest, I am capable of taking a better picture than this, but this  first one was through a plate glass window.

It’s a little hard to be sure, but I think these are about two storeys tall. You can see the tops about even with fourth floor, and I took these pictures on second floor.

The comment from the nurse we happened to run into on the elevator? “I like the picture of the cows. That one’s really my favorite.”  (I did not take a picture of the picture of the cows.)

It could be that I’m in the middle of writing a query letter, and a lot of my friends are out there querying or facing some other form of rejection, but that seems relevant, somehow.

Rejection: You can be a world renown artist, making $11.2 million dollars worth of blown glass in a building that was designed for it, and some days… well, the nurse just likes the picture of the cows.

I did take a picture of my sandwich, though. Just in case you happen to be hungry or something. Different kind of art here.

That’s a real-live King Kong gyro, or at least, it was, until it met its untimely demise in my stomach. King Kong is a local business that was started by a Greek immigrant (probably before I was born) and they hire mostly other immigrants (not just Greeks) I think as a matter of principle. So, you get your sandwich, you get your salad, you get your fresh baklava… and you get the sheer joy of watching the nice Georgian (The Georgia in Europe, BTW) boy ask your somewhat squeamish mother if she wants her steak “wit blud.”

He means rare, of course, and as it turns out, she does. King Kong apparently makes a very good, very, very rare steak. **keeps eyes on fully cooked gyro.**

Gearing Up For Competitive Blurb Reading Season

I’m not writing my query letter yet. I’m still looking at examples from our forerunners, and looking for something (anything) that includes a vital piece of backstory. Yes. Exactly. My novel is the exception to the “no backstory” rule. At least, I think it is. There’s one glittering hunk of backstory you can’t understand the inciting incident without.

Yes, I know there are whole writers’ groups full of writers’ rule exceptions. But me… I’m the real deal.

Shut up.

So, I’m in the process of reading blurbs on the backs of books, or movies, or you know… tattooed on performance artists. Whatever. Trying to get a grasp on what other people are doing, and what works (backstory!) And what doesn’t, and why.

I’m not there, yet, but I’m working on it.

So, while  shopping for movies doing intense, and detailed research, today, I ran into one that was largely cliche, and which made me smirk just a little.  Let’s make sure I get this right. Snazzy relationship ends after she disappears without a trace. Very next sentence? He follows her “trail.” I’m pretty sure a “trail” is a pretty large “trace”.

Fortunately, it’s a movie, not a book, so with the right number of explosions, I could forget all about that, and be happy.

But I probably have less wiggle room as a writer.

Back to the great backstory hunt.

Reading, Writing, and Television Documentaries

I’m finally sitting down to finish reading the Doomsday Book, and it appears that I’ve saved all the most depressing bits for last. **sigh** Well, I guess I shoulda figured it out back at the beginning, when I found a quote from the author that suggested that all time-travel stories are inherently sad, because you’re dealing with characters who have long since died.

Let’s see if I can keep up here. I took a break from my Hugo/Nebula list to read Sandman, an now I’m taking a break from Sandman to read the Hugo/Nebula list. Oh. And some quick peeks at the book I was given at the writers’ conference. Because, hey, free books.

Ideally, I would like to have my own book finished before the people I met at the writers’ conference forget who I am.  So, I’ll just hop in a time machine, and go back to last week to mail the manuscript. I’m feeling incredibly forgettable, right now. And maybe, the truth of the matter is that the whole point is to be able to “jog” people’s memories later: “We met briefly at the Pike’s Peak Writers’ Conference. I did not throw up on you.”

Clearly, I need a more concrete timeline.

Right now, I’m working on organizing everything I have into one coherent document with a timetable attached. I think most of the scenes are written–or, at least, I can say they exist in real life–and just need to be polished.

And I watched a delightful–if somewhat mass-audience–documentary on syphilis today. It’s amazing the things that are just sitting there, waiting for you to find them on YouTube. I learned that there is a non-lethal, airborne version of the disease, and also that John Deere tractors are sold in England.

To the best of my knowledge, there are neither John Deere tractors nor venereal disease mentioned in my novel. Perhaps I should add a postscript.

 

New Year’s Resolution #3: Get Involved

Resolution #3 is to take the time and energy to be actively involved with my creative communities. I’m a little hit-and-miss on that one. It’s hard to find my local creative community, and being quite honest, a little harder to find common ground with them. Well, I’m taking the effort. Will track them down. Will take brownies and chips. We’ll see what happens.

I’m a little better with online communities, at least in part because I can cherry pick the parts I like. No one on the internet has ever asked me to help them move, for instance. And finding people who are working on the same challenges I am is sooo much easier.

So, I’m working with some groups to get to where I want to be.

I’m taking on the 52 Week Writing Challenge (Found it on Medium.)in 2017. The challenge is to write one something every week for a year. There’s no specific something it has to be, but something. A poem or a book chapter every week. I’ve already talked about my desire to write and publish more short stories, so **surprise** I’m going to commit to writing one short story every week in 2017.

Fifty-two short stories. That means four for the A-to-Z Challenge in April, and four for the StoryTime Blog Hop. Probably one or two for my blog during the Holidays. That leaves forty-two that I can submit to magazines or contests. Which, all said and done, would probably do wonders for my career.

I’m going to hold off on committing to NaNoWriMo until closer to the date. I might be ready for a new project on November 1st and I might not.

As always, I’ll be jabbering away at the Holly’s Writing Classes Forums… Which are really one of the most supportive and stable writers’ forums I’ve come across. And keeping up with this blog (which may or may not be less solipsistic in the future. Prob’ly not.)

And I will be jumping back into my revision with both feet in the new year. Hoping to start annoying agents–and eventually, the unsuspecting public–with my work as soon as possible.

So, what challenges are you taking on for 2017? What are the best communities to push you forward? What’s made you a better writer?

Ha! I’m not the only one who collects rejections.

I’m working on the most perfect-est query letter in the world right now, and obviously, I’m hoping for success. I’m spelling things correctly, and even punctuating them. I’m also measuring out the exact right amount of glitter to go on the hand-drawn hopeful-unicorn’s wings. (Most guidelines suggest  3.27 grams. I don’t know why.)

In all seriousness, though, I fully expect to add to my rejection collection. It’s all just par for the course.

So, today I bring you this guy… who collects rejections recreationally. (Good looking, funny, and a tireless crusader for that ideal “burger refill.”)

Next Year Will Be Better

I’m thinking of getting myself a “next year will be better” gift. Something splashy that I wouldn’t ordinarily buy. I’m not all that good at splurging, so it took a little effort to convince myself that new shoes and underwear aren’t it.

I’m not looking for some static, shiny object to set on the table. I’m looking for an honest-to-mackerel things will get better, kick-start the progress, something I’ve never done before thing.

The really big things I’vedone for my writing career, so far, are Holly Lisle’s classes, How to Revise Your Novel, and How to Think Sideways. (Yes, and in that order. Long story.) They come with a built-in writing community, so well worth taking the leap, particularly if you happen to be like me. (Marooned hours from the nearest writing group IRL.)

There are plenty of writing books on my shelves, and while some of them are worth the money… I think I have enough, now.

So, I’m thinking in terms of an online-seminar, or… if I can find one that I want to go to close enough to home… a real-life writers’ conference/convention. (Very possible that I’m on the convention end of things.)

The further I get from home–and from places I can couch surf–the more expensive going to conferences gets. So, I’m looking, but I fully expect to wind up doing something on the internet. Which honestly, isn’t that much of a loss.

I like the internet. I love the idea of a place where ideas can exist independently of bodies, if that makes sense.

I’m finishing up a revision, and getting ready to get out there and start querying again. (Probably a ways off, but that’s more or less where I am.) So, I’m looking for something that fits in with that part of the cycle.

Not that I’m going to make up my mind until after the new year. I don’t want any 2016 touching my Thing.

Any suggestions?